Fresh-baked elderberry, rhubarb-strawberry, and apple pies remained in the kitchen, to be carried out later after the meal was finished. The feast was arranged upon sawhorse tables covered with tablecloths, where dishes and silverware were already in place. With the smell of the food wafting over the yard there was little trouble in getting everyone to the table. Each found a seat on the odd assortment of chairs from the kitchen and benches fashioned from sawhorses and boards for the kids. Hands young and old were joined together in a prayer of thanks; as soon as Uncle Harlan's bowed head came up, the food began to be passed. Laughter and conversation continued until finally, even the largest man had his fill.
As the table cleared, sounds of pots and dishes clanging in the kitchen began. The warm afternoon sun cast shade over the great yard through maple and buckeye trees. The small country lane beckoned to some to take a long stroll down its hilly path. Others retired to the cool of the house to sink into huge overstuffed furniture in the livingroom. The children quieted from their games and were too full of dessert to play. It was usually in this time of day that someone was elected from among them to go find Uncle Harlan. "Uncle Harlan, find us four-leaf clovers!" the child would coax him off the couch, away from coffee and a little nap after his dinner.
He would good-naturedly be led to the side yard between house and barn where the other children waited. Tall evergreens grew around the shady red brick of the house where the sun only reached between them part of the day. A clover patch, cool and green grew in that place and with Uncle Harlan's arrival, it became magic.
He would study the shady patch, while many of us tried to beat him at the game by looking hard at the dark green plants he surveyed. But none would be able to see until the instant he suddenly bent down and reached to pluck a large, green beauty. The stem in his large hand held not three leaves, as was common, but four leaves. Who would get the first-found, we all wondered, as he held the treasure upward. We never showed disappointment when the clover was finally handed away to the child of his choice for we knew by faith in his talent, each child would get a treasured piece of good luck for his or her very own that day.
Years went by, families grew,children became adults and left to find their own lives and dreams. Many came back for regular visits to the land they had been raised upon, usually when they felt that life needed a little slowing down. There were some who even moved back after years of being away and brought grandchildren again to that red brick farmhouse. I returned to find old friends and family one Fall when the countryside blazed with yellow, red and orange, and the air fell warm and hazy over it all.
At eighty-six years of age, Uncle Harlan greeted me with a broad smile from the open porch doorway of his farmhouse. He wore some clean work pants and a plaid shirt and I noticed that his brown hair had turned silver in my absence. He walked a little stiffly with arthritis, but the sparkle remained bright in his eyes. We talked of old and new and ate apple pie with coffee set on a red checkered tablecloth in the big kitchen. The sun's rays mellowed through the panes of the kitchen window, tracing dust in the air and falling quietly on the table between us. Autumn leaves on the trees outside seemed to turn even more golden and I sensed an end to day drawing closer. We pushed back our chairs and walked outside crunching through fallen leaves as we toured the yard and orchard together. Spirits of good times and family lingered in the place as we walked. I breathed the cool fall air scented with leaf smoke and felt the late afternoon sun upon my face. I was at once reluctant to leave.
"Uncle Harlan, find me a four-leaf clover?" I asked a little sheepishly, feeling like that shy child of some twenty years ago.
Part 5 8/19/2014 The conclusion to The Cloverfinder by Linda J Pifer
To my surprise, his reply came without hesitation, "I've got one I've been saving special." He spoke with enthusiasm as his steps turned away from the house and toward the old weathered gray barn. I followed him almost a hundred yards up the drive, past the barn where the smell of dust and hay carried on the breeze from its huge open door. By the end of the lane, near the wooden gate, grew wild flowers yellow and gold. He bent and plunged his hand among them to a familiar deep green shape. He smiled a warm triumphant smile as he straightened up and handed me the large, perfectly formed four leaf clover.
His smile stays with me today, locked in that special place one has for such things. And the four-leaf clover stays with me as well, placed in a keychain for good luck. It is a simple piece of evidence, attesting to the fact that even a plain keeper of the fields can be the possessor of a little magic... as a Cloverfinder.
Note: Not the end of the story.
On a recent trip up to Ohio to visit my cousins (Uncle Harlan's children), it was discovered that all his boys inherited their Dad's magic; cousin Vaughn gave me several pressed 4-leaf clovers to prove it. Later after returning back home, I received a letter from his brother Gene with several 4-leaf clovers taped to it. I've made a note to self this year on our usual fall trip to Ohio, to investigate just how far down the generations this talent has endured.
Perhaps this would be considered a small talent to some, especially those who've grown up without traditional superstitions or don't believe in "luck". Even without believing, I challenge you to just go out and find a four-leaf clover, and let me know when you do.
Family reunions were always held on Uncle Harlan's farm and the two-story house would fill up with kids and adults of every age. Uncle Harlan's four sons and two daughters produced fifteen grandchildren. Several great aunts and uncles still lived in the surrounding countryside as did their children and grandchildren. Many came to stay overnight for the next day's gathering and cots would be added to the large upstairs loft room for any who needed them. The resulting reunion was always a time of joining together, getting to know cousins all over again and strengthening our family ties.
The women of the family would begin preparing the reunion feast early in the morning when cool breezes stirred through open windows. Counters and tables would be piled high with extra dishes, pots and pans of every description. The air would grow steamy despite open windows as the sun rose higher in the sky. An electric fan would blow air the length of the long narrow kitchen and out the back screen door. Occasionally a drift of kitchen talk and laughter would be carried to the men who sat under the shade trees discussing summer planting, new tractors and politics. With so many children in one place, games like hide and seek, statue and tag were always lively and raucous, played with much yelling and scrambling about in the large yards of the farm.
When all was ready, the women carried out great pans of crispy fried chicken, steaming pots of corn-on-the-cob, dishes of fresh garden vegetables and breads, with a choice of homemade jams to spread on them.
They were hands hardened by years of farm work; calloused and rough, nails cut short and on the left, a finger missing from a careless moment with a hay bailing machine. Tanned and strong, the hands were a perfect extension of the man who labored from dawn to sunset, caring for his animals and fields.
He had fine features and there were smile lines around his eyes, acquired in the fields against the bright sun. He started work as a young farmhand on my grandfather's farm, married my aunt at an early age and bought land of his own; he was my Uncle Harlan.
My earliest memories of him center around the farm. His land extended for several acres into the fields and woods where cows grazed in pastures and corn grew tall. The red-brick house, a saltbox style, sat easy with a large kitchen garden off its west end. The garden stretched up and over a gentle hill and was planted with carrots, peppers, onions, tomatoes, chard and many other vegetables. Behind the backyard, visible through the lace-edged windows of the house, the countryside lay open like a handsewn quilt with patches of different-colored crops, each lined by the fine stitch of barbed wire on wooden posts.
In my life there were Pifers, Wanamakers, Guerins, Taylors, Greens, Gongwers; all these and then some were intricately woven throughout my young life and they made quite an impression on the way life was lived.
If your interest is in genealogy for the above families, you will find more than 95 vintage pictures in #Ohio Girl, dating from the late 1800's through 1965 with names of those appearing in them. Notes on their personalities, habits, lifestyles help to bring them alive again.
Curious about the era between 1940's and the 1960's? Life in a rural farming community in Ohio wasn't always easy, but men were home from war and the economy was booming. Generations were spreading further apart in beliefs and ideals. I was a witness to the old and the new, growing up to find my own way with the influence of both.
ISBN 978-0-9890142-1-2 120 pages; Copyright 2007 by Linda J. Pifer
See the author's newest work by clicking on 'New Work - Books' in the Menu.
A man fights his cancer head-on in this short sci-fi.
"You have a wonderful story developing..."
Daniel Smith tied for tenth place in INK & INSIGHTS 2015
Apprentice category competition!
'I love your descriptions of NZ, I absolutely intend to start the series from book one, the writing takes me directly into the 19th century to be with them.'
Mystery and Thriller Novelist
WINDOWSbook one in the Trilogy
Published in Aug 2001 to Country Magazine ©
#Linda J Pifer crafts a modern-day fiction tale to inspire family history buffs to write more of their family's stories in first person and bring their ancestors to life beyond the usual dusty records and online research notes.
She is no stranger to the subject of #Genealogy.
Windows follows an American widow to the sweeping countryside of North Yorkshire for paid research into their family's history. She becomes a part of the life and traditions of the family and their estate home as she unravels its hidden secrets. A Christmas celebration restored, unexpected romance and revelations into their heritage all lead outside the U.K. as the reader becomes fully vested in the widening trail of discovery.
Early Reader Reviews: Thanks to everyone who put these into Goodreads!
"I feel I know Thomas's family now...when does the next book come out? I have to read more..." K.B.
"I really enjoyed the road trip to Aberdeen...it reminds me of the Scottish countryside we saw on our trip there..."R.S.
"...needs to be a movie, that Brit country, the house, and Thomas..." Anne C.
ISBN 9780-9890142-2-9 Copyright 2014 Linda J Pifer
Book Three in the Windows Trilogy
BACK TO HIGHBRIDGE
In 2011, Highbridge Estate, the 100+ year old North Yorkshire ancestral home of the Smith family is in trouble, its finances failing. As the heir, Thomas is hard-pressed to make a success of the newly-built Copper Swift Mill and adds a small cafe' for extra revenue. His love and fiancee' Sarah, continues to hesitate on a wedding date and he worries she's having second thoughts.
Someone prowls unseen in the Manor during the night to search for rumored treasure and a mysterious visitor begins to help. What secrets remain undiscovered at Highbridge and who's making it their business to find out? Read the family Smith's final story as they join together to bring Highbridge into the twenty-first century, and honor its past.
Linda J Pifer Author Books Mystery Historical Saga
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New Zealand Passage
Book Two in the Windows Trilogy
A Short Story
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